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HPV Test Beats Pap Long-Term: Study
Finding lends support to current guidelines combining tests among women over 30By Kathleen Doheny
MONDAY, July 30 (HealthDay News) -- Testing for HPV, the human papillomavirus linked to cervical cancer, can predict which women will stay cancer-free for a decade or more, a new study shows.
While both a positive HPV test and an abnormal result on a traditional Pap smear predicted which women would get precancerous lesions within two years of testing, the HPV test continued to predict which women were at risk for 10 to 18 years later, said study co-author Dr. Attila Lorincz, a professor of molecular epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London.
"HPV DNA testing detects more cervical precancers than the Pap test, and women who are negative for high-risk HPV DNA have improved protection from the risk of cervical cancer," Lorincz said.
The study, which looked at nearly 20,000 women receiving routine Pap tests and HPV testing at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Ore., is published in the July 30 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The research does not suggest one test should replace the other, Lorincz stressed, but confirms the importance of both screenings. The main aims of the study, he said, "were to see how many extra cases of precancer can be discovered by the additional use of HPV DNA testing as compared to routine Pap testing."
The findings, he said, support recently revised guidelines suggesting that HPV testing, if negative, can allow for longer intervals between Pap testing for women over the age of 30. The findings also suggest that an alternate strategy, using HPV testing first, may work well, the researchers said.
According to American Cancer Society guidelines, the preferred screening for healthy women aged 30 to 65 is to do a Pap and HPV test every five years. Women under 30 are often infected with HPV, but clear it spontaneously. That is why the guidelines for the roles of HPV and Pap testing combined are for women aged 30 and older.
As more research is done, guidelines may change, said study co-author Dr. Andrew Glass, senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. "It is likely that HPV testing will be more and more common and may in the future replace routine Pap testing," he said.